Carnival Breeze: 14 Hits & Misses

  • 1
    Hit: New Design
    Nearly gone are Carnival's signature glitzed-out, anything goes themes. That's because the man responsible for 20-plus years of that special Carnival look, Joe Farcus, has stepped aside, taking "Farchitecture" with him. The aim of (new guys) Partner Design is still to immediately and evocatively convince the passenger that he or she is no longer shuffling papers in a cubicle, but Medusa heads and Renaissance nudes have been replaced by something that seems more fitting: ersatz palm trees, beach umbrellas, driftwood-style signage and nature photography. The approach works in tandem with the dining venues, too. A Mexi-Cali burrito joint, a burger bar created by "surfer dude" Guy Fieri, rum and tequila bars by the beach pool, and the popular indoor-outdoor, island-themed RedFrog Pub complete the more Breezy (apologies) Caribbean vibe.
  • 2
    Hit: WaterWorks
    There's a reason the WaterWorks space will be expanded on Carnival's as-yet-unannounced next series of new-builds: Passengers love it, said President and CEO Gerry Cahill. After a day touring Rome in 90-degree Mediterranean swelter, whipping down a twister waterslide or being sprayed with a hose by a seven-year-old became many passengers' first priority. And when the deluge-producing Power Drencher, originally and unfortunately referred to as a "dump bucket," tipped over, sounds of gleeful fear echoed across Southern Europe.

    --Photo appears courtesy of Carnival/Andy Newman.
  • 3
    Miss: Sea Day Crowding
    Here's a sea day euphemism: When you stuff 4,200 people on a 128,500-ton ship, the sun deck can get a little crowded. Compare the overall passenger-to-space numbers to Royal Caribbean, whose last five ships feature about 15 percent more space per person. On Breeze, chair-hogging runs rampant (how do you think that family of eight managed to get all those chairs?), the buffet turns into a game of Frogger, and thousands of passengers jockey for burgers and burritos. Good luck finding a lounger near the pool or in the adults-only Serenity area. Still, I'd be remiss not to mention that there are escapes. Head down to the outdoor Deck 5 Promenade for a quiet but still sunny sea day, or take your breakfast or lunch with a side of jokes at the Punchliner Comedy Brunch.
  • 4
    Hit & Miss: Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ
    The good news for Carnival: Doling out all-you-can-eat pulled pork, sausage, chicken and jalapeno cornbread muffins has been a huge hit early on. The bad: Supplying all that demand -- 700 to 900, said Ivo, the food and beverage manager -- was tricky during our taste test. There were 20-minute queues throughout the hours of operation, and the food, while satisfying, didn't have that fresh-off-the-grill sizzle. (It was Mediterranean temp.) Ivo assured me that, aside from coils of sausage, they straighten things out.
  • 5
    Hit: Taste Bar
    The new Taste Bar, also found on Carnival Miracle, offers a nightly rotating menu pulled from the ship's dining venues. As the cruise progresses, it becomes an amuse bouche on the evening march to the MDR. There are typically two tapas to sample, like short rib croquettes and pumpkin bisque from Fahrenheit 555, the ship's for-fee steakhouse ($35 per person). The small plates are "free," the accompanying (and also rotating) cocktails an attractive $5. Passengers can opt for a Lynchburg Lemonade on "Comfort Kitchen" night, which features a grilled ham and provolone cheese melt on buttermilk brioche and cream of tomato soup, sourced from Breeze's casual buffet spot.

    --Photo appears courtesy of Carnival/Andy Newman.
  • 6
    Hit & Miss: Serenity
    The adults-only Serenity is a lovely, popular area perched atop the sun deck. Oversized hammocks and black wicker loungers and clamshells topped with thick teal cushions make for a striking image. The sound of delighted screams rings through the air whenever the power drencher, a giant bucket that fills up and dumps water on miniature passengers in the adjacent aquapark, unleashes. Serenity now? Still, deluge-related shrieking or not, we found plenty of passengers who managed to snooze soundly.
  • 7
    Miss: Bonsai Sushi
    Like any just-opened restaurant, it takes time to get the sushi rice at just the right stickiness. So I won't begrudge Bonsai, Carnival's first stand-alone, for-fee sushi venue, its service quirks (food not arriving, wrong orders, etc.). The sushi is tasty enough, too, and though it's a for-fee venue, it's still a deal. For $15, you can get the "Sushi Boat for 2," which features two miso soups, two salads and two sushi boats stocked to the gunwales. It's an (optional) surcharge well spent -- and you can still get the fee-free stuff, available via a nightly cart on Carnival's other ships, in Breeze's buffet. So what's the problem? The tableside entertainment ... which featured a trio of teeny-tiny, Japanese waitresses ecstatically singing a heavily accented version of "Turning Japanese." (Google the song meaning.) The surreal rendition left more than one diner with mouth agape.
  • 8
    Hit: Entertainment
    We have to hand it to Carnival. While lines like Royal Caribbean and NCL have gone the big-name entertainment route -- "Hairspray," Blue Man Group -- Carnival has invested in lighting and audio and pared down all production shows to 30 minutes. The zippy performances aren't a major commitment for passengers and the shows -- "The Brits," "Divas" and "Motor City" -- are pretty accessible to Carnival's demographic, which blends babyboomers (who enjoyed the Motown and British Invasion stiff) with families (Divas has Beyonce and Lady Gaga inclusions, which appealed more to the youthful element).

    --Photo appears courtesy of Carnival/Andy Newman.
  • 9
    Miss: Healthy Dining Options
    After seven days of calorie-laden comfort food -- cheese-whiz- and fried-onion-laden burgers, stuffed burritos, BBQ, pizza -- I was craving a little balance. Just a little. When a fellow writer, uninitiated to cruising, asked where the healthy food was (the buffet did have a decent salad bar, but that's low hanging fruit), I mentioned that the Oasis-class ships and Celebrity's Millennium and Solstice-class vessels have "spa cafes." With the health kick semi-materializing back onshore, we wondered how hard it would be for Carnival to introduce the same. Maybe next time.
  • 10
    Hit & Miss: Blue Iguana Cantina
    On a ship aiming to evoke the seaside spots like the Caribbean, California and Mexico, the burrito concept works beautifully. Roll chicken, cheese, beans and pico de gallo into a house-made tortilla (cooked on a big press that's also a visual centerpiece), and then direct burrito-wielding passengers over to a fantastic condiments bar with more than 20 salsas and hot sauces alongside a big bowl of watermelon. The problem, to me, was the ingredients. I wanted to like the burritos more, but the salt-content needs to be dialed down. I wasn't able to finish any of the three I sampled. And with a salsa bar featuring a dozen dips -- including offbeat concoctions like watermelon and jicama and smoked tomato and scallion -- where are the tortilla chips?
  • 11
    Miss: Sound Issues
    I understand. Breeze is built for up-tempo families and a somewhat boisterous, fun-loving crowd. But some of the noise-related issues -- most of which had to do with putting mismatched venues near one another -- left us scratching our heads. There was the aforementioned Serenity space. And don't stay too late at Cucina del Capitano, a for-fee alternative restaurant positioned directly underneath the basketball court. While we were sipping cappuccinos, the roof seemed poised to cave in under the repeated thunderstorm of bouncing balls. There's also the dreaded connecting cabin door. Fortunately, I had a really nice couple as neighbors who regularly engaged in delightful conversation.
  • 12
    Hit: Cabins
    Speaking of cabins, there's something so comfortably familiar about Carnival's standard accommodations. The line doesn't waste a lot of time with palatial suites or ship-within-a-ship enclaves (though Breeze does have 40 "spa" accommodations clustered around the wellness area). The vast majority of cabins are 185- to 220-square-foot abodes with just the right number of helpful touches like under-the-couch drawers, fold-down shelves in the bureaus, extra three-prong outlets behind the TV's, bathrobes and the famous complimentary toiletry baskets. Inclusions rotate, but I sucked on cherry Ludens, kept my hair frizz-free with Pantene conditioner and my teeth from turning brown with Arm & Hammer toothpaste.
  • 13
    Miss: Punchliner Comedy Brunch
    The Punchliner Comedy Brunch, a sea day exclusive and a relatively new Carnival offering, features five-minute teasers from that evening's comedians every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There's also a special menu inspired by Carnival's "Curator of Comedy," George Lopez, and a Bloody Mary bar ($7.75 to $8.75). It wasn't particularly well-attended, and the space, a cavernous banquet hall that can seat almost 1,000 passengers, made for a slightly awkward presentation. The comedian didn't know where to look or walk. Perhaps it proves that passengers won't trade sunshine for a fancy new menu. Still, the huevos y carne, a Mexican-style steak-and-eggs dish, was worth the (free) price of admission.
  • 14
    Hit: Atrium
    Joe Farcus, whose eye-popping atriums have greeted embarking Carnival passengers for decades, might be out of the Fun Ship game. But the new designers certainly didn't underestimate the power of a first impression. Carnival's signature nine-deck-high hub is decidedly un-Farcus-like -- it's not aglow with color-changing power crystals, Art Deco dots or other hypnotic if repetitive elements. But it's still plenty impressive, especially from the vantage of the candy-colored light fixtures that hang between a painted blue sky on one side and a glass elevator bank on the other.
  • 15

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